We’ve updated this article with the latest on utilizing an SEO Sitemap to optimize your website for search engines. A sitemap strengthens the Search Engine Optimization of your website. Like many other components of Search Engine Optimization, a sitemap is a simple, but potentially overlooked opportunity to improve your presence online.
When designers think of a website’s sitemap, they are usually imagining a wireframe drawn on a whiteboard or web design application. Your website’s sitmap begins there, but it needs to go beyond your site design process in order to reach its full potential. In this article we’ll answer important questions like “what is a sitemap?,” “how does my website’s site map impact my SEO?,” and “what do I need to do to get the most from google search and other search engines?”
What is a sitemap, and how does it work?
First, let’s take a look at the question. A sitemap is a search engine-readable document, typically carrying an XML extension, contains metadata about your website and its content. At minimum, a sitemap contains a list of all your site’s pages, but it can include a lot more such as image data and information about downloadable assets stored on your site. As search engines crawl your sitemap, they’ll visit these pages, images and files to discover the on site content and meta information that are at the root of how search engines rank your website. Without a clear site map, search engines have to guess and check, making it more difficult for them to evaluate where to position your site in search.
How does a sitemap impact my SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is the process of making it as easy as possible for search engines like Bing and Google to discover your website, assess the information on your site, evaluate if your site is credible, and position your website in search results. Search engines use a program called a web crawler to comb through your site to collect information for evaluation. The best place for a crawler to start is with the site map you provide to search engines. As search engines crawl your sitemap, they’ll visit these pages, images and files to discover the on site content and meta information that you or your SEO manager have built in to the site. Without a clear site map, search engines have to guess and check, making it more difficult for them to evaluate where to position your site in search.
Without a functioning site map, search engines will have difficulty scanning your site. While they won’t hold it against you in rankings, you can lose out on information contained on your site. The search engine may miss pages or whole sections of your website if they are unlinked or buried deep in a series of linked pages. If information is missed, it’s detrimental to how your site will appear in search results.
Here are five undeniable benefits of using a sitemap for your business’s website.
#1) A Sitemap Provides Increased Search Engine Visibility
A sitemap will increase your website’s search engine visibility by providing Google and Bing — along with other search engines — with the URLs of your content-filled pages. Without a sitemap, search engines may not discover all your website’s pages, resulting in fewer indexed pages and less organic traffic.
#2) They Can Provide Crawling Analytics
You can use a sitemap to analyze the way in which search engines crawl your business’s website. In Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, you can submit your sitemap. Google and Bing will then reveal crawling data about your website on their respective analytics platform. If Google can’t crawl a page because it’s blocked by your website’s robots.txt file, for example, it will reveal this technical problem in your Google Search Console account.
#3) Sitemaps Are Easy to Create
While they may sound complex, sitemaps are simple and easy to create. You can check out this article by Google for more information on how to create a sitemap. The most basic sitemap supported by Google consists of nothing more than a plain text file with a single page URL on each line. Even if you want to create a more comprehensive XML sitemap, it’s still a quick and easy task that most business owners can perform themselves. If your business’s website uses WordPress, for instance, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin to automatically create a sitemap.
#4) They Follow a Structured Hierarchy
You can show search engines your website’s hierarchy, such as parent category pages and their respective lower-level category pages, using a sitemap. In an XML sitemap, you can assign varying levels of crawling priority to show search engines which pages are parent categories and which pages are lower level categories.
#5) Images and Files Can Be Included in a Sitemap
Many business owners are unaware that sitemaps can include metadata for images and other files as well. If you purchase and use stock photos on your business website, for example, you can include the URLs of your photos’ licenses in the sitemap. You are able to update the meta name, description and alt tags for images, which the search engine will scan as it follows the link structure of your website. More importantly, sitemaps support geographic metadata for photos like the country or city in which the photo was taken.
Are you interested in improving the quality of your SEO? Green Vine Marketing will optimize your site, including your sitemap. For those interested in doing it on your own, we provide an SEO coach to help you take each step and increase your skill in site optimization for your business. We utilize an SEO sitemap as part of your comprehensive website optimization strategy. Don’t want to spend any more time working on your site or SEO? We have a range of comprehensive SEO programs to serve you based on your industry and level of competition in the market.
Call Green Vine Marketing today!